Month: August 2017

Is the Length of Your Marriage Important?

Meryl Streep and Don Gummer were married in 1978, and they’re still together after 39 years. But, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries broke up after 72 days. What is the impact of the duration of your marriage on divorce?

Quickest Hollywood Marriages

After only one month of marriage, Golnes “GG” Gharachedaghi decided to end her marriage because “certain facts have come to GG’s attention that have made her realize her marriage can no longer continue, and, in fact, should never have happened.”

Britney Spears and Jason Alexander lasted for a whopping 55 hours in January 2004.

Drew Barrymore and Jeremy Thomas were married when she was only 19 after only 6 weeks of dating. They filed for divorce after less than two months of marriage.

Florida and Length of Marriage

In Florida, the duration of marriage plays a very important role in divorce cases. I’ve written about the types of alimony awards available in Florida before. For instance, Florida Statutes dealing with alimony specifically limit the type of alimony awards based on the duration of the marriage.

So, for determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage less than 7-years, a moderate-term marriage is greater than 7-years but less than 17-years, and long-term marriage is 17-years or greater.

Florida defines the duration of marriage as the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.

The duration of marriage is also a factor in property divisions. When a court distributes the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court begins with the premise of an equal split.

However, there are times and cases which justify an unequal distribution based on several relevant factors. One of the factors a court can consider is the duration of marriage, in addition to other factors.

Celebrity Marriages

Given how important the duration of marriage can be for awarding alimony, and considering an unequal distribution of property, the marriage between Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley – in which Cage filed for divorce a mere 108 days later – would have a very different result than the marriage between Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick, which is going on 26-years.

The eonline article is here.


Triple Talaq Divorce Ban

The Triple Talaq allows Muslim men to leave their wives instantaneously by saying “talaq,” meaning divorce, three times. The thousand-year-old custom was just banned by the Indian Supreme Court.

Triple Divorce

I wrote about India’s controversial Islamic custom, and how the Indian Supreme Court was considering petitions that challenge Muslim laws governing marriage on the grounds that they discriminate against women, a charged issue that risks angering the country’s orthodox Muslims.

Among the petitioners calling for change is a Muslim woman whose husband, after 13 years of marriage, divorced her by saying “divorce” three times.

The Indian constitution protects gender equality, but on issues of marriage, divorce and inheritance, different religious communities are governed by their own so-called personal laws. Whether a person is subject to those laws is usually determined by their religion at birth.

Florida Divorce and Religion

In a Florida divorce, the court’s powers are found in the Florida Statutes.

Florida passed Senate Bill SB 386, which was approved by the Governor. Specifically, the bill prohibits courts in Florida from:

  • Basing a decision on a foreign law that does not grant the parties to litigation the same rights guaranteed by the Florida or U.S. Constitutions.
  • Enforcing a ‘choice of law’ clause in a contract which requires a dispute to be resolved under a foreign law that does not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by the Florida or U.S. Constitutions.
  • Enforcing a ‘forum selection’ clause in a contract which requires a dispute to be resolved in a forum in which a party would be denied his or her fundamental rights guaranteed by the State Constitution or the United States Constitution. 

There are now over 30 states which have considered some limits on the application of foreign law, either through legislation or ballot initiative.

 India’s Supreme Court Ruling

India’s Supreme Court banned the controversial Islamic divorce practice known as “triple talaq” in a landmark ruling last week. The practice, that stretches back over a thousand years, allows a husband to divorce his wife by simply saying the Arabic word for divorce, talaq, three times.

The five-judge bench did not unanimously ban the practice, which Balaji Srinivasan, one of the lawyers on the case, called “disappointing.”

Instead, three judges ruled that it was unconstitutional, while the remaining two judged that it should be up to the country’s parliament to pass legislation officially banning the practice.

“The majority decision is that triple talaq is banned in law,” said Srinivasan. “From now on in India, the law is that there is no practice of triple talaq which is held to be valid.”

The judge in the majority ruling concluded, on the basis of an act in 1937 that enshrined Muslim legal beliefs and traditions into law, anything that was “anti-Quranic” was therefore banned and didn’t deserve constitutional protection.

“triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Holy Quran and consequently, it violates Shariat … What is held to be bad in the Holy Quran cannot be good in Shariat and, in that sense, what is bad in theology is bad in law as well.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has publicly advocated for a ban, added his voice to those celebrating the ruling. In a tweet on his official account, the prime minister called the court’s decision “historic,” adding that it “grants equality to Muslim women and is a powerful measure for women empowerment.”

The CNN article is here.


Religious Upbringing and Divorce

Divorce agreements can dictate the religious upbringing of a child: which church to attend, or how strict a religious education should be. What happens after divorce if an ultra-orthodox mother concludes she is a lesbian and wants to live a normal life?

The New York Case

In last week’s New York case involving the Weisbergers, the parents agreed to give the children a Hasidic Jewish upbringing in all details, in the home or outside of home, including which school the children attend.

Three years after the divorce, the mother came out as a lesbian, disparaged the basic tenets of Hasidic Judaism, allowed the children to wear non-Hasidic clothes, permitted them to violate the Sabbath and kosher dietary laws, and referred to them by names that were not traditionally used in the Hasidic community.

The trial judge ruled in favor of the father, circumstances had changed so much that he should have sole custody because of the mother’s transition from an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic lifestyle to a “more progressive, albeit Jewish, secular world.”

The court noted that the mother’s conduct was in conflict with the parties’ agreement, which “forbade living a secular way of life in front of the children or while at their schools.” The court posited that had there been no agreement it might have considered the parties’ arguments differently.

Florida Religious Upbringing

In Florida, there is no provision in our laws purporting to authorize such judicial enforcement in married parents. Religion and divorce is a matter I’ve written on before.

In a divorce action, the court’s powers over custody of children are found in the Florida Statutes. When a court is required to decide an issue as to the custody or support of minor children, the sine qua non of the exercise of those powers is the best interests of the child.

There is absolutely nothing in the statutory listing that expressly makes the religious training of the child a factor that the court should consider.

The Florida Statutes command all parents to confer on all major decisions affecting the welfare of their child, and to reach an agreement as to any required decision.

When the matter involves the religious training and beliefs of the child, courts cannot make a decision in favor of a specific religion over the objection of the other parent. Generally, a child’s religion is no proper business of judges.

New York Law Changes

The appeals court in New York reversed the father having sole custody of the children, and final decision-making authority over medical, mental health issues, with supervised therapeutic visitation to the mother.

When presented as an issue, religion may be considered as one of the factors in determining the best interest of a child, although it alone may not be the determinative factor.

Clauses in custody agreements that provide for a specific religious upbringing for the children will only be enforced so long as the agreement is in the best interests of the children.

Importantly, no agreement of the parties can bind the court to a disposition other than that which a weighing of all of the factors involved shows to be in the children’s best interest.

The Washington Post article is here.


Divorce and Adultery

South Korea’s Constitutional Court revoked a law that imposed a penalty of up to two years in prison for adultery — but adulterous spouses are not allowed to divorce their spouses. What is the role of divorce and adultery in Florida.

South Korea’s New Law

The South Korean case concerned a 68-year-old plaintiff who left his wife and three children to move in with another woman 15 years ago. He was unable to arrange a divorce with his separated wife, so he sued to get one in 2011.

South Korean law states that the person responsible for a marriage’s failure isn’t permitted to file for divorce, though divorce settlements can be arranged with cooperating spouses.

Lower court decisions upheld this statute and dismissed Baek’s suit because he had conducted an extramarital affair, but he and his lawyers challenged its legitimacy.

South Korea is a conservative country that is still ironing out the legal parameters for marital infidels. The Constitutional Court’s decision to decriminalize adultery was based on the idea that a person’s right to pursue happiness includes the freedom to conduct a private sex life.

The sharp division of the court’s decision in the case, with seven justices ruling against six, suggests that the argument for freedom of choice in personal matters held considerable sway, but it was defeated out of concern for spousal and child welfare.

Divorce and Adultery

Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? This is a subject I’ve written about previously. After Florida became a no-fault state, the fact that, “he (or she) is sleeping with a co-worker” doesn’t hold much traction in court any more.

Anyone can file for divorce without proving any reason for it other than the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Or is it? When is adultery relevant in divorce?

In Florida divorce and adultery mix. There is still a statutory basis for infidelity to be an issue in your divorce proceedings, but not in the way most people think. Here’s a quick review of when adultery can potentially creep into your divorce:

Parenting Plans/Custody

Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes mentions that the “the moral fitness of the parents” as one of the factors the court considers in determining the best interests of a child.

So, if one parent can prove that the other parent’s adultery had, or is reasonably likely to have, an adverse impact on the child, the judge can consider adultery in evaluating what’s in the best interest of the child.

Equitable Distribution

Adultery may impact the division of property under Florida Statutes. Florida is an equitable distribution state, and it is presumed that property should be evenly divided.

This presumption may be overcome by proof that one spouse intentionally wasted marital assets. This waste is sometimes known as dissipation. Paying for expensive jewelry, foreign trips, rent, car payments, and dinners for girlfriends and boyfriends is considered wasting marital assets.

In Florida, the court has the power to reduce an adulterer’s equitable distribution to credit the marital estate for waste.


Florida law specifically provides that a court may consider the adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.

However, courts have struggled to reconcile the “fault” of adultery with the concept of “no fault” divorce. The result is a mix of opinions depending on the judges.

Back to South Korea

South Korea still has no law that provides for alimony or child support in divorce; divorce settlements generally provide for this assistance, if they are agreed upon.

If the court were to allow philandering husbands to divorce their wives outright, the court explained, this would potentially force many wronged women into financial difficulty.

Despite the election of Park Geun-hye as the country’s first female president two years ago, gender inequality persists in South Korea.

Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that South Korea has the highest gender wage gap among the organization’s 33-member states, with a median wage disparity of 36.6% in favor of men.

South Korea criminalized adultery in 1953 to protect women at a time when they were generally reliant on their husbands financially and confined to domestic duties.

Divorce could leave them stigmatized and vulnerable, facing considerable difficulty in finding employment or a new spouse.

The adultery law was intended as a safeguard that granted women a measure of legal power over their husbands.

The article is here.



The New Jersey Supreme Court recently overturned a decades-old law, and set a new standard, in the best interest of children in relocation disputes. Relocation disputes arise when one of the parents wants to move away with the child after divorce or separation.

The court ruling Tuesday affects cases in which parents have divorced and one wants to leave New Jersey with a child against the wishes of the other parent.

The old law focused on whether the move would “cause harm” to the child. With the court ruling, divorced parents now must prove the move is in the child’s best interest.

Florida Divorce Relocation

In Florida, “relocation” is defined as changing a parent’s principal residence to a new one at least 50 miles away from his or her current address for at least 60 consecutive days. Relocation is a topic that I have lectured and written on before.

Florida has a relocation statute, which in addition to defining relocations, sets out the requirements a parent needs to fill to legally relocate by agreement or court order.

The relocation statute is very technical, and lays out very specific factors a relocation parent must prove, and the court must consider to determine if the proposed relocation is in the best interests of the child.

There is no presumption in favor of or against a request to relocate with the child even though the move will materially affect the current schedule of contact, access, and time-sharing with the nonrelocating parent.

Instead, the court looks at specific factors, such as: the child’s relationship with the relocating parent and with the non-relocating parent, the age and needs of the child, the ability to preserve the relationship with the non-relocating parent; and the child’s preference, among others.

New Jersey Supreme Court Case

The recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision stems from a 2015 case in which a father tried to keep his daughters from moving to Utah with his ex-wife after the divorce.

Jamie Taormina Bisbing, the primary custodian of her twin daughters, planned to move with them to Utah after getting remarried.

Her divorce settlement required she get written consent from her ex-husband, Glenn, before moving. Glenn Bisbing argued that his daughters should remain in New Jersey.

A trial court permitted the girls and their mother to move to Utah, but an appellate court later reversed that decision, saying the “best interests of the child standard” should be applied.

Matheu Nunn, the father’s attorney, said the state Supreme Court ruling resolves the issue of why the “best interest” standard was applied to all other custody rulings except for cases where a parent is separated from a child.

The New Jersey Supreme Court changes the burden of proof in New Jersey from the old standard in which there was a presumption that children were happiest when their custodial parent was the happiest.

The new standard brings New Jersey law into line with Florida, which puts the burden of proof on the parent who wants to relocate and it reflects a growing trend in New Jersey to consider the rights of both parents.

The US News article is here.


Anatomy of Sole Custody

Grey’s Anatomy star, Jesse Williams’ estranged wife, Aryn Drake-Lee, is requesting sole custody of the couple’s two children, citing the actor’s unpredictable work schedule, a dangerous driving incident and his alleged “revolving door” of women. When is sole custody awarded in court?

According to news reports, in court documents filed on August 11, the real estate broker claims that she is responsible for the day-to-day care of the kids because of the Grey’s Anatomy star’s busy schedule.

“Jesse would ‘join in’ when he was available and home, but he rarely took care of the children without my or the nanny’s help and presence,” the documents say.

“Jesse became distant, secretive and was home less and less, traveling for unexplained reasons while telling the kids, ‘Daddy is at work.’ We tried marriage counseling in the fall of 2016, but were unsuccessful. Jesse eventually moved out at the end of March 2017.”

Florida Sole Custody

The question about an award of sole custody of children frequently comes up in consultations, and is a matter I’ve written about before. Many people are surprised to learn that the term “custody” is no longer recognized in Florida.

Florida replaced the “custody” term for the “parenting plan” concept in order to avoid labeling parents as “visiting parent” or “primary parent” in the hopes of making child custody issues less controversial.

Under Florida’s parenting plan concept, both parents enjoy shared parental responsibility and a time-sharing schedule. “Shared parental responsibility” means both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities, and have to confer with each other so that major decisions affecting their child are made jointly.

A time-sharing schedule, as the name suggests, is simply a timetable that is included in the parenting plan that specifies the times, including overnights and holidays, that your child spends with each parent.

Florida’s parenting plan concept has changed sole custody into “sole parental responsibility.” The term means that only one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child, as opposed to the shared parental responsibility terms, where both parents make decisions jointly.

How do you get sole custody in Florida?

Sole parental responsibility, or sole custody as people generally call it, has been made more difficult to obtain. Florida’s public policy is for each child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce.

Because of Florida’s public policy, courts order shared parental responsibility unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.

In those cases where detriment is proved, the court orders sole parental responsibility to one parent, with or without time-sharing with the other parent, if it is in the best interests of the minor child.

The Anatomy of Sole Custody

Drake-Lee allegedly claims in court documents that her husband has “not recognized and prioritized the children’s schedule over his own and their need to maintain it daily, even on weekends, whether or not a parent is working.”

She also claims that her ex does not make the children’s school pick-up and drop-off a priority, and tries to make the nanny drive the kids, although that’s not what she was hired to do.

However, in previous court documents Williams has claimed that Drake-Lee has declined his requests to spend more time with the children. “Aryn restricts my time with the children and decides when, and for how long I may have them,”

The US Weekly article is here.


Prenups and Millennials

Millennials are delaying marriage until later in life than previous generations. They are more likely to have careers, businesses and property. The Washington Post reports they are also much more likely to have prenuptial agreements too.

Amanda Farris works in accounting and likes to “play things safe” when it comes to her savings and investments. Her boyfriend, Andy Salmons, owns a coffee shop and is a serial entrepreneur not afraid to take risks.

The two have been together for nearly four years and are talking about marriage. But before they vow to stay together for better or worse, they’ve agreed to come up with a plan for how they would protect their finances on the — slim, they hope — chance that their relationship should head south.

“I wanted to find some middle ground,” said Farris, 31, adding that a prenuptial agreement would separate her retirement savings from Salmons’s business and the debt he took on to launch that and other ventures.

“It’s important for us to keep things separate,” Salmons, 32, said. “I don’t ever want my decisions to put her in jeopardy.” Hence the rise of prenuptial agreements with millennials.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements are important for couples planning to marry. Many people believe prenuptial agreements are only for the rich and famous. However, prenuptial agreements help all couples. I have written extensively on prenuptial agreements.

Prenuptial agreements help keep your non-marital property yours. The property you brought into the marriage is yours – mostly. But over time it is common for people to start mixing things up. Inheritance funds get deposited into joint accounts; properties get transferred into joint names…and all for good reason.

Unfortunately, tracing commingled property is expensive, and hard to prove. But, if you put it in writing at the beginning, you might be able to avoid this task, and save some money down the road.

Prenuptial agreements also help you to change the law. For example, right now in Florida, there has been an ongoing debate about alimony. When you go to court, a judge has to follow state law regarding alimony.

However, through prenuptial agreements you can modify Florida’s legal standards for awarding alimony, in addition to modifying what the current law says about the amount of support and the duration of the alimony period.

The Prenup Millennial Challenge

For generations, prenuptial agreements have proven a sticking point for couples who deemed them unromantic. In some relationships, the contracts can signal a lack of trust or suggest that one person is foreseeing an end to the union.

But over time, the equation for when and why two people should marry has changed. In the 1970s, about 8 in 10 people had married by age 30, according to a U.S. census report. In 2016, that same percentage wasn’t reached until age 45.

Millennials are also less inclined to get married while they’re young and broke. More than half of people in their 20s and 30s say it is important for them to be financially secure before they get married, according to a 2015 survey by Allstate and the National Journal.

That increases the chance that when two people tie the knot, each will have a career or business that they want to protect with prenuptial agreements, financial advisers say.

In 1975, about 43 percent of women were stay-at-home moms or homemakers, according to the census report. In 2016, only 14 percent of women were home full time.

Prenuptial agreements are a relatively modern concept. It was only within the past 25 years or so that the contracts became widely accepted in most states, coinciding with the rise of divorce.

Prenups also have evolved as relationships have changed. In the ’70s, when couples generally married younger, prenuptial agreements were mainly used for estate-planning purposes.

They’re also emerging as a tool for dividing debt loads. About 41 percent of couples had student loan debt in 2013, compared with 17 percent in 1989, according to the census report. The size of that debt burden is growing as college becomes more expensive.

The Washington Post article is here.


International Custody

Tennis ace Victoria Azarenka will miss the US Open this year because of an international custody battle with ex-boyfriend Billy McKeague over their 8-month-old son. The case was filed in California, but there may be a custody order from Belarus, where Victoria, Leo and Billy are all residents.

The case became an international custody case, and an international tennis affair, after the father, McKeague, filed for paternity and custody in Los Angeles, where Azarenka has a residence. A California judge informed the Belarusian born tennis star that she is unable to leave the state of California with her infant son as the custody dispute rages on.

With the case set to wrap in October, Azarenka will have to skip the U.S. Open, which kicks off Aug. 28 in New York, as she refuses to leave her child in the hands of her former boyfriend because she doesn’t believe he’s capable of caring for the child.

Hague Convention and Custody

Why would a California judge have a problem with allowing the mother to travel with her son to New York, – with the possibility of slipping off to Belarus – during a custody battle with a man she believes is not capable of caring for the child?

The answer is simple: the judge is concerned about international child abduction, and that raises the issue of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. I’ve written about the subject of international child custody cases before.

The Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law to provide for the prompt return of a child internationally abducted by a parent from one-member country to another.

There are three essential elements to every Hague Convention case:

  • The child must be under the age of 16 years of age;
  • The wrongful removal must be a violation of the left behind parent’s “rights of custody;”
  • The left behind parent’s rights of custody “were actually being exercised or would have been exercised but for the removal.”

So, if a child under the age of sixteen has been wrongfully removed or retained within the meaning of the Hague Convention, the child must be promptly returned to the child’s country of habitual residence, unless certain exceptions apply.

The catch, of course, is that a child must be taken from a signatory country to another signatory country, and that is where understanding the Hague Convention comes in.

According to the Convention, Belarus’s accession to the Convention is effective only in the relationship between Belarus and those contracting states that have declared their acceptance of the accession. The United States has not recognized Belarusian participation in the Convention.

Game, set, match?

According to the New York Post, Azarenka’s attorney, told the California judge her client is more than willing to buy a plane ticket for McKeague and put him up in a hotel for the 2-week tournament.

“But for some reason the judge won’t defer to the Belarus court.”

When cases involve international custody, and there is a risk that a child could possibly be abducted to a foreign country without treaty agreements with the United States, judges are extremely careful about allowing travel – even to the U.S. Open.

The New York Post article is here.


Gifts and Divorce

Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, is dodging a final decision on who gets Kurt Cobain’s famous guitar: their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, or her estranged husband. The dispute over Nirvana’s former lead singer’s famous guitar raises the issue of gifts and divorce.

Isaiah Silva – who’s in an ongoing divorce with Frances Bean Cobain (daughter of the late Kurt Cobain)) – claims Courtney’s refused to come to the door twice when his investigators tried to serve her with deposition papers. According to the documents, she’s also hiding from the L.A. Sheriff’s Dept.’s attempts to do the same.

I’ve written about the Nirvana guitar dispute before. At issue is the facts surrounding the 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar Kurt played during Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged” concert. ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’ is a live acoustic performance album by Nirvana.

The album debuted at number one, was Nirvana’s most successful posthumous release, went 5x platinum, and won a Grammy Award.

The guitar’s been a heated point of contention in the divorce. Frances says the “priceless family heirloom” belongs to her, but her husband says it’s his because, she gifted it to him during the marriage.

Florida Divorce Gifts

Florida is an equitable distribution state, unlike California, which is a community property state. As an equitable distribution state, in divorce, the court sets apart to each spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities, and distributes the marital assets and liabilities between the parties.

The court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors. These factors include things like the contribution to the marriage by each spouse, the economic circumstances of the parties, and any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party for instance.

So, what are “marital assets and liabilities”? They include things like assets acquired during the marriage, and interspousal gifts during the marriage for instance. However, “nonmarital assets” include things like assets acquired before the marriage, and assets acquired by non-interspousal gift.

The fate of Kurt’s famous guitar then, could depend on whether the guitar was a gift from one spouse to another (as Isiah is alleging), and is therefore treated as marital property in an equitable distribution state, or whether it is non-marital.

About a Guitar

TMZ reached out to Courtney about the controversy, but her representatives claim she’s already publicly stated the guitar is a family heirloom and doesn’t belong to anyone other than family, which echoes what she stated previously.

If you don’t know Nirvana or the unplugged concert, stop reading and click here. You won’t be sorry.

Isaiah is claiming he owns Kurt’s former Martin D-18E guitar from the famed MTV performance. The guitar is a very rare; only 300 were made. However, the guitar’s sentimental value is immeasurable, as it was the last guitar played by Kurt before his suicide.

Silva is claiming he owns it because it was given to him by his wife as a wedding present, though she denies gifting it to him. Courtney Love takes her daughter’s side, and has said:

“It’s not his to take. It’s a treasured heirloom of the family’s”

If a judge were to determine that Kurt’s guitar was not a wedding gift from Frances – and given its multi-million dollar and sentimental value, a Cobain family heirloom – it would be Frances’. However, if a judge decides the guitar was a gift from Frances to her husband, an “inter-spousal gift”, the guitar would be marital property.

The TMZ article is here.


Gray Divorce

Yet another magazine is reporting on the rising phenomenon of “gray divorces,” or divorce among couples who are aged 50 or older. There are a few special concerns you should be aware of when divorcing after age 50.

Gray Divorces

First, some facts. Among the baby boom generation, the divorce rate has doubled since the 1990s. In 2015, up to 10 out of every 1,000 people over the age of 50 divorced, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

Though these rates are still lower than those of younger generations, it is the increase in the number of divorces, not the actual divorce rate, that is generating interest among family law attorneys and experts.

Reasons vary. “Life is short, and once you sort of are aging and start to see a limited number of years left on your life, you start to put your own happiness first and do the things that you would want to do.”

I’ve written about gray divorces before. Like the emotional aspects, the legal nuances of gray divorce can be different than what younger couples might encounter when dealing with a split. Chief among those nuances are financial considerations, which can present unique challenges for spouses who are at or nearing retirement.

Florida Gray Divorces

When couples choose to divorce in their 30s or 40s, they still have time to recover financially, because adults at that age have several years, if not decades, left in their careers.

But when divorce occurs when a couple is in their 50s or later, the so-called “gray divorce”, careers may either be coming to a close or are completed, and spouses are often living on fixed incomes provided through Social Security or retirement benefits.

Here are some things to consider:

Valuing the Marital Estate – By the time a couple enters the golden years, they may have gold to divide, including businesses, retirement funds, and vacation homes. Valuing these assets can be difficult. The value of a business may not be apparent from balance sheets, and the sale or transfer of assets may have tax consequences. As a result, a financial advisor may be an important component in the divorce.

Medical Care – Health insurance is often tied to the employment of one spouse. With aging comes diminishing health, and declining cognitive ability. Courts may need to intervene if one party has dwindling capacity to handle their own affairs.

Long-Term Arrangements – Legal arrangements, such as wills and trusts, need to be reviewed to make sure they reflect post-divorce wishes. The same is true for long-term care, such as medical directives, living wills and trusts.

Retirement Plans – After 20 years of marriage, retirement plans can be substantial . . . and complex. Retirement plans vary in kind, and they all have different restrictions, tax consequences, distribution and vesting rules.

Lifestyle adjustment – Younger couples have time to re-accumulate wealth after divorce, but in Gray Divorces, the spouses have less time to re-establish themselves financially. One or both may be close to or in retirement, and face living on half of what they earmarked for retirement.

There are special concerns involved in a gray divorce, or when an older couple divorces. As always, information is power, so make a point to seek out experts for guidance.

Though a couple may have carefully planned for their futures when they were married, they return to the drawing board when it comes to estate planning after a divorce.

Most gray divorces involve marriages that have lasted for several decades, which makes it difficult to disentangle the spouses from each other. However, couples who divorce after many years together should receive a close-to-even split of assets, legally putting each spouse on an equal playing field for the future.

The Indiana Lawyer article is here.